Maybe a misleading headline for my blog post, as it’s really the opposite message I’m trying to deliver. The Big Bang I’m referring to in the title is the change to a Cloud world from our “good old” on-premises infrastructure. For many organizations the Big Bang still hasn’t happened, not that organizations are not embracing new Cloud opportunities, most just can’t change everything overnight. Starting 5-6 years ago, I heard and read many stories that the “Cloud era” would be the end of life as we know it for IT Pros. Personally, I claim this statement to be false.

For this blog post I begin with two statements:

  • The Big Bang doesn’t really work for most organizations.
  • IT Pros are still around and never been busier, despite the fact we have introduced Cloud technologies into most organizations.

The missing Big Bang and then what?

I’ve been in many meetings with software vendors and customers discussing Enterprise Client Management. The vendors are clearly on a mission to help the customer move all of their workloads from the customer on-premises environment to the vendor’s hosted cloud solution. Customers, on the other hand, are a bit confused and do not fully understand the consequences of moving all workloads.

The truth in many organizations is that it is nearly impossible for all workloads to be moved in one Big Bang. There are many reasons that back up this statement, such as legacy applications, custom images, older operating system support, existing business processes, integration with other 3rd party products and solutions, IT staff, users and simply missing features in the new Cloud solutions. This gap between the vendor’s Cloud expectations and the customer’s inclination to make the jump is what I refer to as “opportunity lost in translation”. Why do we end up with this “opportunity lost in translation”? How can we turn it around and begin a common journey with a greater chance of success? Let me explain my thoughts with this example and hopefully help you better understand my viewpoint.

Let’s take a mid-sized public organization with:

  • 20,000 users controlled by Active Directory.
  • 15 years of group policies that few in the organization fully understand.
  • A mix of Windows 7, Windows 10 and various server operating systems.
  • 800+ applications where some are business critical, some in-house developed and others come from vendors that no longer exists.
  • Geographically the organization is all over the country (or globe) with 50+ locations.
  • WAN bandwidth is limited and precious.

Moving this organization to the Cloud in one Big Bang is not only a big challenge, but it’s almost doomed from the beginning. Just look at all of the different work streams in this operation. That does not even take into consideration all the processes that need to be changed and the workarounds we have to implement as a consequence of replacing 15+ years of managing the Enterprise Client environment with a one to two year-old technology. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to make the move, but transitioning the Enterprise Client environment without understanding customer needs is not a “move” but more a “deportation”.

As a Microsoft Regional Director and Microsoft Enterprise Client MVP, it’s clear that I mostly work with Microsoft technologies. There are many good reasons why I recommend Microsoft technologies and services. Microsoft’s new Enterprise Client Co-management strategy is one of them. With this strategy, we can build a bridge between the existing environment (and investments) and modern device management in the cloud. With the latest release of Window 10 1709, Microsoft Intune and Microsoft System Configuration Manager 1710TP, we can for the first time manage a Windows 10 device with both Microsoft Intune and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager. This will allow organizations to take the best from both worlds, easing the journey towards modern management. For Windows 10 devices, we can make use of the new Windows 10 Autopilot feature to enroll devices and greatly enhance the overall user experience while still using Configuration Manager to deploy the 800+ legacy applications we need to support. Older Windows 7 devices will in this scenario remain untouched and still be supported the old fashion way. This Co-management approach will leave organizations with much more control while still embracing and harvesting the many benefits of Cloud technologies.

My role as an IT Pro

Let me start by saying, I have never seen so many work opportunities as an IT Pro as I experience today. Not only for a person with my expertise but for IT Pros in general. In a traditional on-premises client environment IT Pros, for many years, have been key to managing and installing solutions like Microsoft System Configuration Manager, Active Directory, SharePoint and Exchange. With the transition to the Cloud, some of those systems will be replaced with new services like Azure Active Directory, Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility +Security Suite. With these new technologies, new skills like conditional access, compliance management, security threat management and visualization are added to the list we need to master. On top of that, remember most organizations will not go 100% cloud but instead operate in a hybrid mode using new features like Co-management. This leaves the IT Pro with an even greater workload than ever before… oh, did I forget to mention the amount of work involved with deploying and managing the last Windows version ever aka “Windows 10”?

Windows 10 and other Microsoft technologies are now being upgraded with more frequency than ever before. While the amount of changes between the different Windows 10 versions are not as massive as moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10, we are still left with the work we do. The IT Pro needs to evaluate the new versions, develop a servicing model that can be used to upgrade older versions, test applications, evaluate and test security and communicate all of this to the business while supporting two or three different versions in production.

With all this extra work, is the journey towards Cloud really worth it? My answer to that is a clear, Yes! Not only is it worth it, but it’s also necessary to stay on top of new security threats. The introduction of modern management introduces so many benefits for the organization in terms of increased security, ease of management, increased end-user experiences and cost savings that for the IT Pro – don’t worry, your skills are more needed than ever.

To learn more, please spend some time reading these documents: